Photo Credit: CRO Race / KL-Photo
The queen stage of the CRO Race awaited the peloton this afternoon as they rolled out of Opatija, faced with 2900 metres of elevation throughout the 154 kilometre parcours. The toughest climb of the day crested within the opening 60 kilometres and it made for a very attack and aggressive opening to the race.
Covering the early moves well, Max Poole and Enzo Leijnse made it into an initial 20 rider move which was brought back before five riders counter attacked; with the rest of the team looking to keep Chris Hamilton and Oscar Onley safe. However, the front group of five didn’t get too much of a lead and the peloton completely exploded over the Poklon climb with Poole, Hamilton and Onley making it into a selection of around ten riders.
Onto the descent and in the valley afterwards more riders came back, making it a front group of around 20 which led the red jersey by two minutes heading into the last 70 kilometres. Poole did an incredible job to help set the tempo and ensure that the chasing group didn’t’ come back, peeling off as they hit the climb to the line for the first time with 25 kilometres remaining. As the climb hit the steeper cobbled section closer to the finish Onley hit the front and stretched things out, dragging a group clear with Hamilton.
A flurry of attacks followed with both of the Team DSM duo making moves, before eventually Hamilton went clear alongside Fraile and Buitrago. Despite building up a lead that reached almost 15 seconds at one point, the chasing group reorganised and things were back together on the penultimate ascent. Here, Vingegaard made his attack with Onley following closely and forming a group of six out front. The top two from the Primošten stage were shouldered with the majority of the work and as a result the chasing six, which featured Hamilton, came back at five kilometres to go. Hamilton immediately attacked over the top but he was quickly shut down, before he came to the front and set tempo to try and reel in the new attack of Rolland.
Heading onto the climb for the last time Rolland held onto a good lead and Hamilton buried himself at the front before swinging off, and Onley upped the pace. Digging deep he had Rolland in his sights while Vingegaard then launched his attack beside him. Reacting quickly and with power, Onley managed to get into the Tour de France winner’s wheel before pulling up alongside him in sight of the line but Vingegaard just had enough left in the tank to hold on and take the win; with Onley taking another brilliant second place.
The result on the stage sees Onley move back into third on GC and the lead of the best young rider classification, while Hamilton holds onto tenth overall after some superb team riding by him and everyone else on the squad today. Tomorrow’s final stage sees the bunch take on a mostly flat stage ending in Zagreb, although with a short hill in the finale to tempt some attacks.